My Rabbit Is Unfriendly. Now What?
by Guest Blogger Laurie Stroupe of Precious Pet Rabbits
I raised over 700 rabbits, mostly Holland lops, during the years that I showed rabbits. And through my rabbit websites, I’ve received rabbit questions from literally all over the world. Here’s a question I’ve received again and again – and my answer.
One of the main reasons that pet rabbit owners complain that their rabbit is not friendly is because they chose a doe (female rabbit), did not spay her, and now she’s hit sexual maturity. Suddenly the doe views her cage or her space as a potential nest. Now she’s all about business and protecting that area – and her owner is the intruder.
The best solution is to choose bucks (male rabbits) for pets. Or, choose a female and then have her spayed. It’s obviously too late to choose another sex, but talking to your vet about having her spayed is still a great option (take the time to find a rabbit-savvy vet, please).
By the way, I recommend neutering pet bucks, as well.
If the rabbit is not friendly due to its basic personality, there is relatively little that can be done. I’ve never been able to totally turn around a rabbit that is unfriendly from the get-go. Some of the ideas below may help some. But it’s hard to turn a cranky pants into a sweetie.
However, if your rabbit is unfriendly due to fear or lack of experience being handled, there’s a lot that can be done:
1. Avoid chasing your rabbit. You do not want to become the predator in your relationship. When attempting to pick up the rabbit from a cage, put your hand on his head to keep him from running, and then scoop him up with your other hand.
2. Use a soothing tone of voice to talk to your rabbit whenever you approach him. I’ve been able to calm a totally panicking rabbit from 20 feet away simply with my voice.
3. Hold your rabbit in the crook of your arm like a baby – on his back. Baby rabbits nurse on their backs, so it is not a strange position for them. The position makes them feel secure and develops trust.
4. Deeply massage your rabbit instead of gently stroking his fur. Rabbits learn very quickly that being handled is a very good deal for them.
5. Trance your rabbit. Hold him firmly with one hand by the back of the head with the ears between your fingers (never allow the rabbit’s weight to be held by the ears). Put the rabbit on your lap on his back with his head on your knees. Use your free hand to stroke his head, ears, and cheek. Continue stroking the cheek until he’s totally relaxed (now’s a great time to have a friend clip his nails, too).
6. Place your rabbit belly to belly with you, horizontally, across your body. Begin stroking at the top of his head and rub firmly down to the tips of his back toes, gently stretching out his legs with each pass. Pretty soon, your rabbit will be totally relaxed – and much longer than you ever imagined.
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